Women's NCAA Tournament Final Four Game Breakdowns

Notre Dame Skyler Diggins NCAA Tournament

Women’s NCAA Tournament Final Four Game Breakdowns


Up until the last couple rounds of the NCAA women’s tournament, it looked like the women would escape the unbelievable rounds of upsets that were going through the men’s tournament.

How quickly things changed.

In the space of two days, what looked to be a surefire Final Four of Baylor, Stanford, Notre Dame and Connecticut was flipped on its head. As a result, one of the semifinal contests might very well be the true national championship game, although you certainly cannot count out the other two squads.

Here is a look at the national semifinals:


#5 Louisville vs. #2 California (6:30 p.m. Sunday at New Orleans, Louisiana)

Unlike the men’s tournament, where Louisville was widely expected to cruise through its bracket on the way to a national-semifinal appearance, the Cardinal women were no better than a fifth seed and expected to bow out in the first few rounds. Instead, Louisville got two home games where it beat Middle Tennessee State 74-49 and Purdue 76-63. Then came the shocking outcomes. The Cardinals dethroned national champion Baylor 82-81 and put an end to the career of Baylor legend Brittney Griner. As if that were not enough, Louisville turned around and shocked 2-seed Tennessee in an 86-78 win that sent the Cardinals to the Final Four. This is Louisville’s first trip since 2009 to the national semifinals and just the second trip in school history, and a big reason why Louisville is here now has to do with Shoni Schimmel and her sister, Jude. Shoni’s 24 points, combined with Jude’s 15 bench points and three other women in double figures, enabled the Cardinals to cruise to the win.

California has never made the Final Four, as its path has largely been blocked by Stanford in recent years. After wins over Fresno State (90-76), South Florida (82-78 in overtime) and LSU (73-63), California’s Layshia Clarendon scored 25 points in a 65-62 win over Georgia. How strange is it to see someone other than Stanford in the Final Four from the West? Consider this: The last time a team other than Stanford represented the West in the national semifinals was Long Beach State – all the way back in 1988. In a season where standouts like Griner and Skylar Diggins have dominated the headlines, Schimmel and Clarendon have taken a back seat. Not this time. California and Louisville have not met this season, but California beat Georgetown by 16 points in a meeting of Pac 12 vs. Big East. Although California is good, I’m predicting Louisville once again. There is just too much talent on this team.

Prediction: Louisville 72, California 65


#1 Notre Dame vs. #1 Connecticut (8:30 p.m. Sunday at New Orleans, Louisiana)

Now this is an epic matchup. Two Big East squads against each other in what was an expected national-semifinal showdown. Notre Dame reached the Final Four by virtue of a 97-64 destruction of Tennessee-Martin, a 74-57 win over Iowa, a 93-63 pounding of Kansas and an 87-76 win over Duke. Diggins had 24 points, five rebounds, nine assists and five steals for Notre Dame (35-1), which reached the Final Four for the third year in a row.

Connecticut (33-4) destroyed Idaho 105-37 and Vanderbilt 77-44 in two games played at Storrs, followed by a short trip to Bridgeport for a 76-50 win over Maryland and an 83-53 victory over Kentucky. Connecticut is an example of your classic women’s Final Four team, as this is its sixth straight trip to the national semifinals. Breanna Stewart’s 21 points and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’s 17 points were the big guns in the victory over Kentucky. This game has all the makings of a classic. Connecticut and Notre Dame have faced each other three times during the regular season, and Notre Dame has won all three games in very close fashion. The Irish won 73-72 on Jan. 5 in the first Big East meeting, Notre Dame won a triple-overtime 96-87 thriller at home on March 4, and then the Irish prevailed 61-59 eight days later in the conference tournament. There is a reason why this is the primetime game for ESPN. I don’t think this game will go to overtime, but it will be very close and the Irish will try for the title one more time.

Prediction: Notre Dame 74, Connecticut 72


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